Whatever degree of realness the Master of the Key possesses, he represents something quite specific to Strieber, and that is a wise, powerful, and benevolent father figure. The Master of the Key is precisely what every boy needs in order to safely emerge from the protective cocoon of the mother’s psyche and navigate the troubled waters of childhood and adolescence: a figure of supreme authority and impeccable goodness. A representative of God.
Norman O. Brown wrote, after Freud, that “Psychoanalysis must always take the position that the Child is Father to the Man.” The Master of the Key is Strieber’s idealized image of himself as the father. He even speculates it may be his future self. In light of Strieber’s fragmented personality—his strange blend of guru-like wisdom with childlike histrionics—the Master of the Key, and the artifact which Strieber created to represent him (The Key), might be seen as a literal embodiment (in book-form) of the split in Strieber’s psyche, transformed into a literary device. The Key purports to be a transcript of a real-life conversation, and maybe it is. But it reads like a dialogue between Strieber’s regressed, child self and his progressed, father self: the guardian in its benevolent and angelic form. The Master even refers to Whitley as “child.”
All the evidence points to the fact that Strieber himself is unsure what happened that night, and that the only solid evidence he has is what he managed to write down. In other words, and whatever real-life basis there may be to the encounter, he wrote it into being, and has since adopted that literary version as reality. This is not meant as a criticism, because it’s what we all do, all of the time. As Greg Mogenson writes in A Most Accursed Religion, memory is a form of imagination:
The psychological motto “we act out what we can’t remember” becomes for us “we are determined by the literalness of events (physical, emotional, intellectual, social, etc.), which we cannot imagine.” Memory, or memoria as it was once called, is a form of imagination. What it recalls into the present is always, in part, a function of the perspective currently dominating the present. Though we tend to reify history, thinking of it as what “really happened” in the past, history is not static. Inasmuch as it touches us experientially, it must enter into the imaginative modes of recollection, thereby becoming psycho-history, a history of soul (p. 19).
Audios: “A Dangerous Perspective,” a conversation with Phil & Keith about the value of having external teachers, with some focus on [enlightenment teacher] Dave O, and the age-old psychological question “what art’s all about” and is it more important than well-being; and “The Author of His Own Experiences,” in which Doug Lain and I discuss Strieber, Lovecraft, and the age-old philosophical question, “What is reality?”